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The writ of habeas corpus is a post-conviction relief available to convicts who have exhausted their right to appeal. It is an essential, lawful protection of the liberty of a person. Neubauer (2006) states that as a court order, it requires a detained person to be produced and an explanation as to why the person is detained be given.
This writ is different from an appeal in that, first, it is only available to a person who is in prison. Secondly, whereas appeals are grounded on technical matters, the writ can be based on constitutional faultiness. Finally, unlike in appeal which is limited to objections advanced at the time of trial, the premise of the writ is broad since the petitioner can raise new issues. He/she can assert constitutional protection, notwithstanding that it was not available during the trial. Neubauer (2006) affirms that under the writ a petitioner can also contest circumstances of his/her detainment. Moreover, a convict can file numerous petitions for habeas depending on the available levels of the judicial system.
The case of House v. Bell 547 U.S. 518 (2006) illustrates the above facts.
According to House v. Bell 547 U.S. 518 (2006), Paul House was charged with capital murder, convicted, and sentenced to death even though there was no direct evidence linking him to the crime. He petitioned for habeas corpus in federal courts affirming that he had novel evidence showing that he was not guilty. However, his petition was denied by The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on the ground that he had not satisfactorily demonstrated that, considering the new evidence no reasonable juror would convict him. In arriving at this decision the court relied on the case of Schlup v. Delo. The court stressed that while the new evidence threw some doubt on the original evidence, however, it could not maintain an application for habeas petition.
The issue of contention was whether the federal appeals court had erred in applying Schlup v. Delo and subsequently holding that House’s new evidence, was insufficient for a habeas petition.
In a decision that was voted 5-3 the court of appeals was found to have erred in denying the habeas petition by the Supreme Court. The Court reasoned that the petitioner’s case was of its kind and that it deserved a review notwithstanding that he had failed to offer his new evidence during the trial. As such the court categorically affirmed that the house’s new evidence was so strong that if he had offered it, no reasonable juror would have convicted him. Following this observation, the Supreme Court directed the lower courts to hear House’s new claims.
In a nutshell, it can be noted that House was entitled to this relief as he was in prison. Second, he filed numerous petitions, first in two state courts as well as the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, including a review by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and finally the U.S. Supreme Court. From the case, it is evident that House sought to provide fresh evidence that was not produced during the trial.
Another post-conviction relief is the writ of Coram Nobis. Like habeas, it is resorted to by a person who not only has been convicted and sentenced but also in circumstances where the appeal is not possible. A petition under this writ attacks the outcome of the case alleging some errors. However, this writ is different from habeas since it is only filed in the trial court seeking judgment and/or sentence to be set aside.
This is a news article appearing in the New Straits Times on Apr 9, 2010. It is about an actor named Khaireyll Benjamin Ibrahim who is challenging his detention in the High Court. According to this article, Khaireyll Benjamin Ibrahim was arrested for having syabu, under the Special Preventive Measures of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1985. Under this law, the police are allowed to detain a suspect for 60 days (Benjy seeks a court order for release. Apr 9, 2010. New Straits Times). While under detention the article notes that he was held incommunicado to defense a lawyer. This act aggrieved him necessitating him to write to the police demanding to be allowed access to his client. According to this article, Khaireyll Benjamin Ibrahim pleaded not to guilt to the charges of drug possession, culminating in the detention.
From this article one can connect the textbook theory and the practical part of this writ of habeas corpus. As said elsewhere, a writ of habeas corpus is a court order requiring a detained or imprisoned person to be brought before court and reasons be given stating why he is being detained. We have also seen that it is a significant safeguard of an individual’s freedom.
This article demonstrates the premise upon which the habeas petition is applicable. First, the applicant herein feels that he is illegally detained. As a consequence, he petitioned for habeas corpus seeking the high court to order his immediate release in addition to declaring his detention as illegal. In other words, this petitioner is indirectly challenging the law under which he is detained. This law’s constitutionality is questionable as it is inconsistent with innate freedoms as guaranteed by the constitution
This establishes the fact that habeas corpus writ is available where a person is believed to be wrongfully and/or unlawfully detained. The article further establishes that the writ has been extended from its traditional view that it is only available to people in custody, to include citizens who are detained awaiting determination of their cases.
Neubauer, D.W. (2006). America’s courts and the criminal justice system. (9th ed.) Mason, OH: Thomson Southwestern.
Benjy seeks court order for release (2010). New Straits Times, Web.